Virgin Atlantic Airways was founded by Sir Richard Branson in 1984 and it has risen to being the second largest serving airline. It operates to thirty destinations world wide. Over the years, it has gained popularity and received business, consumer and trade awards worldwide. This airline has succeeded due to its new and quality standards of traveling in style. When the airline was first started in 1984, its aim was, "To provide the highest quality innovative service at excellent value for money for all classes of air travelers" (Virgin Atlantic Airways - Company Overview, 2011). Currently, the airline offers its product in three classes; upper class, premium economy and the economy class. According to Anon (2011), an author of BBC news, the airline is currently offering new jobs which include 350 cabin crews and 50 pilots who will be based at the Gatwick airport. According to Corneel Koster, director of operations, safety and security for Virgin Atlantic, the airline is creating a new route between Manchester and Las Vegas, and it will increase London departures to the Caribbean and Ghana (Anon, 2011).
Emirates airline is another competitive firm in the air transport business which was formed in 25th October 1985 by the Dubai government. It is headed by his highness, Sheikh Ahmed bin, who is the chairman and the chief executive of emirates. According to Graham, et al (2010 pp157), emirates airline is part of the state owned emirates group owned by the Dubai state. It has emerged as a global airline for tourism and ravel. Other divisions that are associated with the emirates airlines are Dnata, which is the largest management service company that handles cargo, passengers and technical issues for the airline; Emirates hotels and resorts that offer hospitability such as Spas; Emirates holidays, which offers touring services to over a 100 destinations; and finally, the Arabian adventures that offer desert tours, deep- sea fishing, and traditional cruises.
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Ethical aspects and issues
According to Weiss (2008 pp 302), the following are principles of ethical firms. Such firms are at ease of interacting with the internal and external stakeholders, and make the good of the stakeholders, and the business of the firm. An ethical firm emphasizes more on fairness and considers the interest of other people as much as theirs. They also assume responsibility for the firm's actions, such that the employees are responsible for their own action. They also look at their activities as to have a purpose on the firm hence, they operate in a way that their employees value and also are concerned with the surrounding environment.
However, the organizations that are not ethical and reinforce secrecy such that they separate executives from managers and employees, hence concerned more about status than human welfare. Such companies emphasize on strong competition and maximum profits at any costs. Their employees are hence not motivated thus leading to crashing of cultures. Moreover, such organizations do not follow protocol and are always having legal issues with the authority (Weiss, 2008, pp 302).
According to Thompson and Martin (2005, pp 98) ethics can be defined as "the discipline of dealing with what is good or right from what is bad and wrong. It is associated with the views of people throughout the society concerning morality of business." For instance, there is a case where British airways was accused by Virgin Atlantic of using privileged information to evaluate virgins airlines route profitability and persuade customers to switch from virgin airlines to British airlines. The British airways went further to poaching customers with deceitful information about virgin airlines. In addition, they initiated computers, cars and home break-ins of the virgin staff (O'Shaughnessy, 1995, pp236). This act by British airline against the virgin Atlantic was perceived to be unethical. However, according to Weiss (2008 pp 297), Sir Richard Branson is perceived to be ethical in the case whereby, in 2007, he blew a whistle on the illegal airline cargo price collusion and also went ahead to offer a reward of $25 million to anyone who can develop a commercially viable design to cut down on greenhouse gasses, a project that was named virgin earth.
Also, during an interview with CNN, he insisted that "if as a leader you treat people fairly, them they will be motivated and they will always want to come back for more" (Weiss, 2008 pp 297). During the interview, he further said that, it took the airline close to 10 years to get a valid license for its operations; that way, he is able to sleep at night knowing that he worked hard to get where he is and did not use any short-cuts like bribes. When a company practices ethical issues, then the advantages are long-term (Weiss, 2008 pp 297). The Virgin Airlines also serves fair trade tea and coffee to their customers. This act not only entices the passengers, but also boosts the farmers who supply their products to the fair-trade market. Sir Richard indicates that this move mainly has a major effect on the passengers, since they will be consuming healthy products. In 2008, Virgin Airlines recommended that their planes start towing - "towing meant, keeping the plane's engines off, thus saving on two tones of carbon pollution on every flight." This was a way of preventing air pollution. Virgin Atlantic also ensures that its customers are treated in a friendly manner in terms of service, regardless of which class one chooses to travel in, be it economy, premium economy or the upper class. The airline is also strict on the attitude of employees towards client. According to Anon (2008), recently, thirteen crew members were fired as a result of insulting passengers via face book. The airline's action portrays their respect and seriousness towards their clients.
Virgin Atlantic airlines, through the Virgin Atlantic Foundation, which was founded in 2003, offers aid and only supports charitable programs in the countries that they operate in. these projects must be aimed at supporting the children and youths who are neglected, poor, or violated. The project also aims at reducing the effect of HIV, malaria, meningitis, leukemia in children. They also offer aid in disaster stricken areas and they aim at creating an impact in the lives of many people. Some of the charitable events by Virgin Atlantic include the following.
Muscular dystrophy in the UK - funds allocated to this project is aimed at reducing the muscle disease that causes high rates of mortality among children. Children with aids charity in the UK assists in providing medical attention, food, uniform and toys to children below the age if eighteen years, living with HIV. The Sekanani School in the Maasai Mara in Kenya provides learning facilities to children in that area. Project Hope program in China assists children with cancer - these funds ensure children are free from cancer which is a fatal disease among children. Samson Chivatsi School in Kenya supports the local children in the area to go to school and be educated, due to poverty in this area. The south-African charity trust in South Africa is intended to cater for abused children and those living with HIV and AIDS. The Ijamido charity centre in Nigeria has one hundred and fifty orphan children and these funds assist in giving them a safe home and meeting their basic and medical needs. The Rachael's children's trust in India ensures children are able to benefit through education materials, dental and medical check-ups and basic things. Virgin Atlantic also engages its employees in some exercises aimed at assisting the projects; for instance, some of the staff set to Mt Kenya for mountain climbing in order to raise money for the Maasai Mara children project. With such out-door experiences, employees are generally motivated (Virgin Atlantic Website, 2011).
Some of the ethical issues that relate to Emirates airline are charity and welfare. Emirates airline is associated with humanitarian services for needy children through the airline foundation whose aim is to improve the quality of life lived by children. This foundation provides aid, regardless of religious background and regions of the affected. It is targeted at restoring human dignity among children worldwide. According to their foundation website, recently, the emirates have made it possible for, HIV and pediatric clinics that are changing lives in Uganda. Secondly, they have installed IT classrooms for special needs children orphanage in Tanzania; donations have also been able to save lives through eleven heart surgeries in Chennai. Emirates airline also offers scholarships to the qualified applicants only. Emirates is also environmental friendly, as it worked with the Dubai government to establish a reserve, in which it protects the endangered mammal species which include the Arabian and Scimitar-horned Oryx and the desert habitat.
However, according to the now public site three months ago, pilots insisted that the Emirates Airline was headed for accidents due to fatigue of pilots since they had a limit of up to 100 flying hours in 28 days compared to other airlines that have the same limit of hours but for 30 days. The pilots argued that customer's safety is under threat as a result of fatigue experienced by pilots. For a firm or organizations to practice ethical issues, they have to be concerned about the employee welfare, client's interests and safety. If employees are motivated, in this case the pilots, then the rate of plane crash will be low. Some issues on lost of luggage are also common in the airline business
However, according to Vilcox and Mohan (2007 pp 136), "safety remains the highest priority for airlines." Thus, safety measures should be implemented for the flight crew and the passengers. The wellbeing of employees must be considered since the safety of the passengers, rely heavily on the pilot. The pilots therefore, should not be fatigued at all or over worked. Vilcox and Mohan also insist that, "Tough rooster hours could cause fatigue for the pilot and the crew." The management should hence come up with a procedure that encourages shifts, schedules and rests. Any accident not only claims lives, but it also leads to great loss in financial terms for the company. Airlines policies should be aimed at reducing errors at all times. Vilcox and Mohan (2007 pp 136) further argue that to minimize accidents, "an airline must have, sufficient time, training, information and contingency plans for special situations and events."
An article by Yvonne Miller, suggests that each airline company should have a code of conducts that yields ethics, for instance, each employee should be aware of what is right and wrong in a company. For instance, a conflict of interest may occur when employees receive expensive gifts from their customers for doing their jobs well. In such a case, this particular customer may require a favor next time from the employee, and the favor may not adhere to the rules and regulation of the company. Such cases may cause ethical dilemmas to an employee.
Miller further explains that, sometimes, employees may be forced to work extra hard in order to meet certain clients' demands. Hence, they have chosen between ethics of the airline or personal demands like money, since these clients offer quality rewards. This would lead to destroying the airline's good name. Miller insists that any airline should make their conduct policies. Another conflicting issue may arise if employees of one airline choose to works for another competing airline. This definitely means they would work hard to improve a competitor's airline than their own airline. When investors of an airline liaise with another airline to compete unfairly in the air transport business, a conflict of interest may result.
As a comparison in these two airline industries, on the ethical issues, we notice that the two airlines take customers interest at heart and do everything possible to attract and sustain their customers. This is evident in the case where Virgin Atlantic had to fire crew members because they insulted passengers. On the ethical aspects to the society, both airlines are associated with charitable events and programs that especially seek to reach out to needy children in the countries that they operate in, regardless the political issues or religion background surrounding the children. On the environmental issues, Virgin airline is trying to implement some measures in order to reduce the amount of carbon gas produced by their planes. Emirates on the other hand, has put in place conservation measures in Dubai for the dessert habitat and endangered mammal species. Such ethics create a good name for these airlines and the result is worldwide awards, more clients, hence more profits.
For any airline to achieve good ethics, it must be fair, honest, and courteous towards its employees and clients. Principles are also important when dealing with customers. For instance, customers should be treated fairly and equally with honesty. Deceit towards clients is wrong, since the customers are fed with inappropriate information about a company while advertising, but when they try their services, they get a completely different picture. For competitive firms like the airlines, they should never use deceitful information to lure customers nor should they publicize their competitor's confidential information in the name of competition. This type of competition is unhealthy and unfair. As Richard Branson said, it's better to follow protocol so as to sleep soundly at night. Therefore, corruption should not be tolerated in the name of acquiring licenses fast.
An ethical company engages employees in the decision making of the company, since employees are the pillar of the organization and their ideas may be resourceful. The management should also promote employees on merit basis, not through bribes and gifts. Ethical firms emphasize more on fairness and consider the interest of other people as much as theirs. They also assume responsibility for their actions, such that the employees are responsible for their own action. They also look at their activities as to have a purpose on the firm, hence, they operate in a way that their employees value and are concerned with the surrounding environment.
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